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Spain's World Cup winners refuse to play until Rubiales leaves federation


The 2023 Women's World Cup winners and other notable figures in Spanish football won't represent their country again until disgraced federation president Luis Rubiales steps down.

Rubiales offered a spirited refusal to resign during Friday's emergency meeting of Spain's football federation. The 46-year-old faces widespread calls to leave his post after planting an unsolicited kiss on star player Jenni Hermoso when Spain players celebrated their World Cup final win over England on Aug. 20.

Hours after Rubiales' vow to "fight" to remain in his position, footballers' union FUTPRO released a statement featuring over 80 signatures from female players, including the full squad that competed at the World Cup. The statement asks for "real changes, both sporting and structural, that help the national team to continue growing in order to continue this great success to later generations," according to a translation by DAZN's Alex Ibaceta.

"After everything that happened during the World Cup award ceremony, we want to state that every player that has signed this statement will not go back to the national team under the current leaders."

The statement also includes a brief response from Hermoso following Rubiales' claims that she lifted him and brought him "close to her body" before accepting the football chief's request for a kiss. She denied this version of events before offering greater detail on the incident and subsequent fallout in a personal statement released on X (formerly Twitter). In the larger statement, she claimed the federation pressured her to justify Rubiales' actions in a "testimony that had little or nothing to do with my feelings."

"It is not up to me to evaluate communication and integrity practices," she added, "but I am sure that as the world champion, we as a team do not deserve such a manipulative, hostile, and controlling culture."

Hermoso stressed that the "manipulative culture" affecting the Spain women's team was generated by Rubiales.

The attacker, 33, also described her feelings after the kiss, saying, "I felt vulnerable and a victim of an impulse-driven, sexist, out-of-place act without any consent on my part."

FIFA opened disciplinary proceedings against Rubiales on Thursday over the kiss. Spain's secretary of sport Victor Francos said the government will "initiate proceedings" for him to explain his actions before Spain's administrative court, describing the scandal as "the Me Too of Spanish football."

Although Rubiales defended his kiss and described the pressure to for him to depart as federation president as an attempt "to publicly assassinate me," he did apologize Friday for grabbing his crotch with Spain's Queen Letizia and her 16-year-old daughter Princess Sofia standing nearby.

"I want to say sorry for the deeds that happened in a moment of euphoria, I grabbed that part of my body and did so looking at (the Spain women's team head coach) Jorge Vilda," he said about his celebrations after the World Cup triumph.

"Of course I have to apologize, to the Queen ... and to everyone else who has felt offended."

Vilda, who was among those who applauded Rubiales' address at Friday's federation meeting, is also under scrutiny for appearing to touch the chest area of a female member of his coaching staff during the World Cup final. The controversy follows his refusal to step down in September 2022 after 15 international players staged a mutiny, declaring Vilda's methods and group management had negatively impacted their "emotional state" and their "health," according to The Guardian's Sid Lowe.

Only three of those 15 players - Ona Batlle, Aitana Bonmati, and Mariona Caldentey - returned to the Spain squad for this summer's victorious World Cup campaign.

Spain's World Cup winners refuse to play until Rubiales leaves federation
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